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Ben's blog

  • The first collection

    I got about 30 gallons of sap, handling  full time work and a homestead can be challenging, I finished at dusk. It is a great chore to end the day with, I just wish I could do things at a more leisurely pace.IMG_8191

  • Maple sugaring, season 2

    We are ramping up again for our second season of Maple sugaring. With perfect weather ahead:

    Screen Shot 2017-02-17 at 8.54.26 AM

    And based on a UVM study, I tend to prefer tapping early even with the chance of cold snaps as Winter & Spring figure out who the new boss is. Essentially from what I gather, you can’t tap too early but you can tap too late. I also really like the taste of early flow and the season is spread out in more manageable chunks of labor.

    This sled is proving to be invaluableIMG_8163

    The wife & kid are traveling but the neighbors are here to helpIMG_8165

    Cleaning the tanks and buckets takes a long while, it’s amazing we did it last year without a well for water.IMG_8170

    It takes a lot of work to get everything ready, we will apply a lot of lessons learned last year. I uncovered the evaporator and didn’t even have to kick out a raccoon.

  • HTML Canvas smooth drawing & websocket live collaboration

    Intro

    For a while I’ve been polishing a way to have not only a smooth drawing/writing algorithm for HTML Canvasses, but also have it be “streamed” over the network for live collaboration. While the work has been mostly integrated into projects such as Mandalagaba, here I present it in its most basic form so that it may be dissected.

    Demo

    Draw by dragging your mouse/finger/stylus bellow, fire up another browser to test network repeat. Canvas is used by others online (sorry for anything obsene the internet has left on it) and cleared every hour.

    Quick start

    1. download & decompress html_canvas_smooth_writing.tar.gz
    2. if you don’t have it already, install NodeJS
    3. run the websocket server
      node websocket_server.js
    4. edit index.html and replace all occurences of “ben.akrin.com”  by the host/ip which is running your websocket server. If you are testing on your computer, 127.0.0.1 will do. Alternatively, you can leave it set to “ben.akrin.com” and use my websocket server, in which case step 2 & 3 aren’t necessary, and you’ll have limited latitude as to how many changes you can implement. But it’s perfect for just trying & dissecting the code.
    5. navigate to index.html

    (tested on Mac, Raspbian & Ubuntu)

    Rendering Pen Strokes

    The usual method

    Drawing on an HTML Canvas is usually done by collecting coordinates at which “touch” is being detected and drawing straight lines in between. While this makes for a simple implementation with decent results it has multiple issues:

    • straight lines do not represent well the curvatures of human drawing & writing
    • the joins between lines of various orientations can add seams
    • these problems are exacerbated on devices which sample touch slowly, resulting in less coordinates to represent a pen stroke

    Here is a classic example of what this looks like:

    IMG_0196The quadratic curve method

    To make drawing and writing smoother, we use quadratic curves to link our coordinates. Here’s a basic explanation of how it works:

    you need 2 canvasses overlaid on top of each other (z-index is highly relevant here). The way it works is that the top canvas is the one that you draw on.
    IMG_0197IMG_0198

    The reason for this is that a pen stroke is getting redrawn entirely every time new coordinates come in. This is because with quadratic curving, the final shape of a stroke is never fully known until all coordinates are. So every time coordinates come in (mouse move event),  we clear the temp_canvas and redraw the whole stroke. The operation happens fast enough that it is invisible.

    When you are finished with your stroke (mouse up event), the temp_canvas is cleared and the whole stroke is committed (redrawn) on the permanent canvas.

    What it looks like with our quadratic curving algorithm:

    IMG_0201

    Network Streaming

    Here is how we add network streaming to the pen strokes. Emitting your pen stroke to other clients is easy, you simply blast your current coordinates to a websocket which will repeat it to other clients. When you receive coordinates from other clients though, you can’t use temp_canvas to render them as it might conflict with your current drawing. To this effect we add yet another canvas between permanent_canvas and temp_canvas which will render network events.

    IMG_0199IMG_0200

    Much like temp_canvas, collaboration_canvas is meant for temporary rendering and when other clients finish their pen stroke (mouse up), the instruction to commit to the permanent canvas is sent through the websocket.

    That’s it

    It’s hard for me to document every step of the code; I don’t know your coding level, it’s asynchronous and has lots of bits & pieces which serve specific purposes. I hope however with the basic theory explained, and the code boiled down to its essentials, that you can dissect it easily. Feel free to use the comments section for questions.

  • Traveling Wood

    With decent snow, a new chainsaw, a large sled and the recently discovered “tire splitting” technique, we’ve been amassing a large quantity of wood.

    Here’s what getting it home looks like, I’ve been working on 4 poplars which domino’d onto one another during the last surprise wind storm.

    The sled & ATV combo is also a great way to move children around.

  • The porcupine’s favorite tree

    The porcupine breaks many twigs from the pine tree at the center of this picture. The tree was in the same state last year and there is a clear path where the bark is more worn. I wonder what’s special about this tree that the porcupine took a liking to it.

    IMG_8057

  • I spy a red fox

    IMG_8047This picture doesn’t do justice to spectacle of a red fox moving against the white snow

  • Paparazi’d porcupine

    Very glad to finally see it :) It looks like he sets out for his nightly routine around 1:00AM and comes back around 6:00AM, having partied all night I speculate.

    Porcupine butt

    Thanks to Mike for lending me his trailcam :)

  • Ice blocks for the fridge

    Taking advantage of some very cold nights to make some ice for the fridge. Big blocks like these keep through a few warm days. Eventually we’ll want a way to make a lot more ice and a place to keep it underground, the hope it that it would keep through the Summer.

    IMG_4225

    IMG_4230

    IMG_7980We cut pieces with a hatchet.

  • Kettle to the metal

    We’ve been having static electricity problem in the house so we decided to take humidification seriously. Pots filled with water on the stove tend to be noisy so it was time to go legit with an actual kettle.

    Friends gave us this great deviceIMG_1948

    one vinegar bath later, it’s back in business.IMG_7957We haven’t had static electricity issues since the kettle came online, unlike its modern counterparts, it will never break.